Exploring Athens Greece – September 2015
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 27 – Flew into Athens Greece
We quickly deplaned in Athens. We were anxious to meet Ippokratis, and his family. We made our way to the luggage claim area, but still no Ippokratis. Having gathered our luggage we followed the crowd thru a large set of doors where EVERYONE was waiting for family. Right in the middle was Ippokratis and his two beautiful daughters Amaryllis and Isavella, both age 6. He immediately recognized us from our photos and was waving and smiling. Lynn was met by the two girls who had been anxiously waiting for us. He grabbed a suitcase, and off we went to his car that had been parked rather close, to the terminal, on a surface lot. We had A LOT of chatting on the 30-40 min ride from the airport to the hotel he had recommended. We had never met Ippokratis in person as he does some drafting work for us on occasion over the internet and we were really excited and grateful to have a local pick us up!! Lynn sat in the back seat with the little girls who were showing her how much they knew from a book they had with them. It was a book about animals – all in Greek of course….. Ippokratis delivered us to our hotel where we had to wait 15 mins. For our room. We visited, and shared our presents, while we waited. We brought Barbies and American Trick or Treat Candy! As it turned out we never did get back together with Ippokratis so now we are regretting not having coffee at the airport as he suggested…. AND we didn’t take any photos of all of us either… I guess we will just have to go back there some day 🙂
When our room was ready we made our way to the elevator. We pushed the button, the elevator arrived, and there we stood, and stood, and stood.
Fortunately we realized we had to OPEN the door to the elevator. It was a swing door with a handle, just like a normal entry door in the US. Our room was on the 8th (actually 10th, as the main floor, and second floor seemed to not count) with a view of the mountains, moon rise, and sun rise. We were given one electronic key card. NO image, just a white card with the room number on a piece of tape written by hand. Most crude, but such modern technology. Even more surprising was the “box” on the wall next to the door to our room. You had to put the key card in the box to make lights and AC work. We figured it must be a type of austerity to save energy….
We quickly cleaned, showered, washed, changed clothing, and removed the last 16 hours of Lufthansa from our bodies. We then ventured out in search of real Greek food. There were two nice looking restaurants, both with outdoor seating, within two blocks of our hotel. We really appreciated having help from a local to pick the hotel. The neighborhood was perfect, our room was very nice AND the Breakfast was awesome too!
We selected the Koukouvaya Restaurant. Lynn had Grilled Octopus, and Rob had a wood cooked, meat, “Pie”. It was like an open faced Gyro. And, of course, a bottle of wine with dinner. They brought us an appetizer (we did not order, not sure why) of raw meat wrapped around a cheese. It was to die for! One of the best all time dishes we have ever had. The meal also included a bread, olive, and cheese tray. We left full, happy, and tired. Total cost of this fantastic meal was about 50 Euros ($56 dollars, including tip). We did learn that a “double room” in Greece means two VERY VERY small beds – not a double bed. We were so tired we did not care….
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 28 – Athens Greece
Where ever we go it usually isn’t on a Tourist Bus – because we love to mix in with the people! We do it like they do. That way we can experience their sights and their culture! And this day was no different….
We awoke in the morning on Athens time 8 hours difference from Illinois. We enjoyed a typical Greek Breakfast of eggs, olives, cheeses, coffee, juice and an assortment of pastries. After using the hotel internet to check in with friends, family and business, we headed off for the Acropolis. We walked four blocks to the VERY modern underground train station.
It did require one transfer, but Rob figured it out in a jiffy and the whole episode took less than 20 mins from our hotel to the Acropolis Museum. We even admired a beautiful mosaic while we waited on the train platform
We arrived at the gate to the Acropolis at 8:30am. It was already hot, and there was a line of three couples ahead of us. We ventured straight up the mountain. We hiked, and hiked, up and up.
We saw the small amphitheater, the large amphitheater The Theatre of Dionysus & The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, then up to the top!
We entered thru the Beuie Gate and were able to glimpse the temple of Athena Nike. We walked fully around the Parthenon which is being taken apart and re-assembled by humans and a crane…. I had to laugh – as there were no cranes when it was originally built. We also learned that remaining parts of the beautiful frieze has been permanently removed and installed in the museum down below. When we were putting this post together we learned that Britain’s Lord Elgin chiseled off roughly half the sculptures that adorned the Parthenon in the early 1800s, when Greece was an unwilling member of the Ottoman Empire. Later, he sold them to the British Museum. The museum at the bottom was by a commissioned Starchitect Bernard Tschumi in attempt to show the world museums that are in possession of the missing pieces of the Frieze that Greek deserves to have them back… Now we are regretting not going in the Museum… So much Drama – – and this is only the beginning!
Our view of the Parthenon would not be complete without a photo from the lookout!
We had heard that it was wise to arrive early…. and we thought we had, just a few minutes after the gate opened. But what we learned is that you need to be the first one through the gate – ahead of the large tour groups! It was very crowded the day we were there. But we managed …. Next we made our way through an area of rubble that they call the Precinct of Zeus Polieus.
Then we headed over to the Old Temple of Athena Polias and the The Erechtheion. The Carytids are one of my favorite architectural elements. I had not realized the history of this structure and that it was actually two Temples. If you look at the photos in series you can see that we just walked around it.
After exhausting all the relics on the top of the Acropolis we passed back through the Beuie Gate, but instead of going back where we came from we decided to continue around by taking the path that went around the back side. The Peripatos (walking path) is on the North side of the Acropolis, and is a very steep cliff. Much to our surprise we learned that this area was the start of the Acropolis as a holy place. Here there are caves to MANY Of the infamous Greek Gods. We visited the Cave of Zeus, the Cave of Apollo and the Cave of Hypoakraios. They are just small natural caves where niches have been hollowed out for pilgrims to leave flowers, a note, or light a candle. The patch was in the shade in the afternoon, and we had a refreshing cool breeze.
After visiting the Acropolis we visited a couple souvenir stores, got some water, and had a bite to eat at a sidewalk café. I had a delicious Gyro style sandwich, and Lynn had a Greek Salad (simply tomatoes, onions, olives and cheese – no lettuce) and a skewer with meat. We each got a LARGE bottle of COLD water, and a of course a glass of wine.
Next on the Agenda – the Roman Agora. We did not walk the most direct route, but had a nice time. We entered on the far north end of the Agora, nearest the Temple of Hephaestus. This structure was more what we had expected of the Parthenon. It was MOST in-tact, and not at all crowded. We got a number of photos of JUST the building!!!
From the temple we wandered thru the ruins of the Agora, across to a little Church that we had noticed from atop the Acropolis – extremely cute outside, but not much inside. I think they have been working to reveal old icon murals that had been covered over….
Caution: Post contains Architectural Commentary & Political opinion.
From the Roman Agora, we headed ALL THEY WAY back, again, past the Acropolis, and over to the ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeuss. We had also seen this structure from the Acropolis. This was barely worth the walk, as we were exhausted by then having walked miles already. We didn’t get any photos because we were both carrying dead phones and a camera at that point too. So here is one but the credit goes to Wikipedia!
The few remaining columns were MOST impressive – the size being hard to comprehend. There was one column lying on the ground. We had to ponder what it must have been like when it fell. The ruins surrounding the Temple were not much to speak of. On the way back to the train station we sampled nuts from a local street vendor. 1 Euro got us a small bag of sugar coated peanuts. We always like to try the local street vendor snacks! They were GOOD!
We walked back, again, to the Acropolis Museum, entered the stair to the subway train, and successfully negotiated our way back to our Hotel.
We had hoped to meet up with Ippokratis, but unfortunately were unable to coordinate this evening. So….. We showered, pushed the beds together, and got a cab to the bottom of the Funicular that takes tourists, and lovers, to the top of Lycabettus Mountain. Our car on the Funicular was FULL, and we wished we had gotten on early, and got in the front seats as there is quite the light show in the tunnel on the way up. On top of this hill we found the Chapel of Agios Georgios at the lookout which we learned used to be the Templa of Zeus and of course a VERY nice up-scale restaurant where we had dinner.
We took in the view, and were seated at a table overlooking the Acropolis. After a lengthy meal, that also included a soup and appetizer that we did not order, we asked for our check. Seems that this is common in Greece. If you don’t ask, you will sit there ALL evening! We again went outside and took in the view among all the young lovers who had WALKED up the hill for the view. When it was time for the funicular (runs every 30 mins) we caught a car, all to ourselves, and in the front seat. Unfortunately there is NO light show on the way down. Unfortunately we did not “listen” to our cab driver. He had TOLD us to make sure to have the restaurant call us a cab before we came down. When we arrived at the bottom of the funicular, we discovered why. NOBODY was in the building – meaning nobody to call us a cab. Hence we headed out on foot towards out hotel.
It was a MOST pleasant walk thru an interesting neighborhood. As it was downhill it was not at all unpleasant – even for Lynn in her pretty dress and heels. With our European beds pushed together, we fell asleep hand in hand…..
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 29 – Athens to Embarkation
Tuesday morning was Embarkation day of our Cruise – so we only had a little time to wrap up our exploration of Athens! We decided to head out on foot and look about the neighborhood. We found out from a Google Map that there was a Park and a Greek Orthodox Church a couple blocks away… Come to find out the park was part of the Church – there were little stations of worship all around it. We did a little yoga at one of the places… The church was spectacular! I also found a residence I think I would like…
As always we saw as much as we could in the amount of time that we had…. and on the way back we stopped for a couple bottles of Greek Wine to carry on the ship. We had our bags all packed so we returned to our room for them and grabbed a cab.. We saw a bit more cool architecture on the cab ride to the ship and Embarkation was very smooth and pleasant! The Azamara Staff works hard and efficiently!
We sailed away as scheduled – had a beautiful dinner and were checking out the piano bar when the Captain came on the intercom about 11:30pm. He announced that we had a medical emergency. This after having only been on the ship for a few hours. He was going to make a detour to Rhodes, Greece (our third? Stop?) On the way to Jerusalem. He felt he would be able to go FAST and make up much the speed. He also requested anyone with a blood Donner card, blood type O+, AND that had not been drinking, their blood was required. We went to bed not knowing what had happened.
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